Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold
Showing posts with label Caney Fork River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Caney Fork River. Show all posts

Monday, September 05, 2016

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Alexander

One of the most epic days I've had the privilege of enjoying on the water happened earlier this summer when my buddy Jayson was about to get married. Another friend and fellow groomsman, Pat  Tully, along with myself and Jayson took a day to float the Caney Fork River to celebrate his upcoming wedding. The day turned out better than I could have imagined with the groom-to-be catching two 20"+ fish, and Pat and I caught some great fish as well.

Fast forward a little and you will find me looking forward to hosting Jayson and his bride Hailey on the drifter again for another trip down the Caney Fork River. When discussing the trip, Jayson made it clear that he wanted Hailey to catch a big fish. True to his word, upon arriving at the river to start our float, he quickly jumped in the back of the boat and Hailey was in the front casting brace ready to hunt some large trout.

The water cut off right on schedule which was a pleasant change. Lately the Corps has been inconsistent with the water shutoff time. That can make for some frustrated waiting at the beginning of a float trip. Thankfully we weren't waiting at all on this day. Both rods were already rigged and ready so after parking the truck, I was back down to the water and settled in at the rower's bench in no time at all. I handed Hailey and Jayson their respective rods and we pushed off into the current. Before long, we were bringing some nice trout to the net including an early double. We had to take a picture of the double for the newlyweds. I think they were having fun!


Moving on down the river, both Jayson and Hailey were casting right where I told them and getting some great drifts. The wind was up a little which meant that both anglers and the guy rowing had to work a little harder, but the fish didn't seem to mind. If anything, I think they were feeding even better than normal.

Moving on down the river, we were approaching a spot where I had recently spotted a large brown trout. Directing both of them to get their drifts started early, I moved the oars at the right time and the boat was perfectly positioned as it came over the shoal. Suddenly, Hailey's strike indicator shot under and the battle was joined. I was already going crazy with the possibility that we had found the big brown trout. The big flash when the fished rocketed towards the surface told us that, instead of the big brown, she had found one of the great rainbow trout that are in the river right now.

The fish was hot and for a while it was touch and go if we would land it on the #20 fly and 6x tippet. Hailey did everything perfectly though and before long got her picture taken with the big trout she had come to the Caney Fork River to catch.


We made another pass over the shoal but then kept on moving down the river. As we were drifting, we started to notice a roaring sound down the river. Lately the river has been inundated with various power boats and this jet boat was no exception. A lot of these guys are polite, but several have been roaring by with no thought for the large waves they throw as well as the discord in an otherwise quiet day. Thankfully, these will not be on the river for ever. A certain element within our sport seems to show up only shortly prior to and during the spawn. I would rather catch my big fish under normal conditions but a few people seem to only show up when fish are at their most vulnerable. If you are interested in catching these fish under fair conditions, consider a float in my drift boat as I know where these fish are as well as what they are feeding on year round. If you must fish for spawners, please respect the fish and keep them in the water. Above all, do not keep any trout caught during the spawning season.

With the shoal we had been going to catch our next big fish on shot by the jet boat that took a couple of passes over it, we had to adjust our plans a little. It was getting late so I decided to do lunch and give the water a little time to rest. Loud motors have a way of spooking the better fish in the river.

We enjoyed our lunch of sandwiches, chips, and my famous Greek pasta salad. Jayson was extra excited about the chocolate chip cookies to chase everything down with, and I discovered that it was his favorite sweet. I was glad that he was happy and content because Hailey was well on her way to owning the day from a fishing perspective. Jayson was still catching fish, but Hailey was finding all of the quality fish.

After lunch, we pulled back out in the current and started drifting again. Almost immediately Hailey tied into a really great fish. I chased the fish up and down the river and she did everything correctly. Before long, we had a really nice brown trout in the net. Meanwhile, Jayson was in the back of the boat still working on catching the little guys.


We continued to enjoy our float, with the jet boat passing us at least twice, throwing a big wake and not slowing appreciably either time. Both times we continued catching fish but not the big guys. Those fish were well under cover by this time.


Late in the float, I offered Jayson the chance to enjoy a treat. The dry/dropper fishing with midges has been phenomenal in one particular stretch and I handed him the four weight ready to do business with those trout. Late in the day without the pressure of wanting Hailey to catch large trout since she had already cleaned up from the front of the boat, Jayson put on a clinic. He caught several really nice fish until it was determined that the hour was late and we needed to leave.



Thanks again for an enjoyable day Jayson and Hailey, and I hope it is the first of many fun times for you in the drifter together!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Smelling Beetles

Some guide trips are routine, while others are definitely a little out of the ordinary. This past Monday, I had a half day guided wade trip on the Caney Fork River. We had moved around trying to stay ahead of the generation that has been a challenge lately.

We found several willing fish on midges and nymphs (mostly midges) early in the day as well as a few that ate the hopper but didn't find the hook. When the water started rising, it was time to move and move we did. We found another good section with more favorable water conditions and started fishing again, knowing that we had limited time before the rising water found us. I had mentioned wanting to try a certain section and Terry who was fishing with me was all for it. Moving down the river, we were approaching our target spot when I froze.

My nose detected the definite smell of Japanese beetle. I know this sounds unbelievable, but the pungent and unmistakeable smell of beetles made me look up. Sure enough, the tree that was hanging out over the river nearby had lots of beetles eating away on the leaves. Knowing at least a little about such things, I quickly deduced that instead of a midge behind the hopper, it was time for my favorite, a black beetle.

Terry was soon maneuvering into position and made a great cast to a brown trout I had spotted. Immediately the fish nailed the fly. This scene replayed itself again and again over the next hour.  Most of the fish were brown trout, but at least one or two were rainbows.

Terry Butrum with a quality Caney Fork brown trout

Catching fish on dry flies on the Caney Fork River is always a treat and this day was no different. Before long, we had to make a beeline for the bank because the water was catching up, but we had already caught several fine trout. Next time you are out on the river during the summer, make sure to stop and smell for beetles. You might just luck into some great fishing!


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Beginners' Luck

Luck. Some of us have it and some of us don't. If you are like me, you will get a good run of luck, but the whole time you are dreading the inevitable turn of fortunes. A bad string of luck can involve losing giant fish, breaking fly rods, and even filling up your waders after an innocent slip on the rocks. Some people seem to have a knack for catching big fish, and it doesn't seem to matter whether they are seasoned pros or beginners.

Last week, I had a couple of people on the boat who said they were beginners. After a trip like we enjoyed it can be hard to believe something like that, but I'll take them at their word.

This was one of those trips that had been on the calendar for months. The goal was to help them learn how to successfully fish the Caney Fork River. As fairly new fly anglers, Jeff and Sandy wanted some instruction that they could then take and apply on their own to enjoy the sport of fly fishing. Upon booking the trip, we left the question of a wade or float trip to be decided later. As the trip drew closer, I received an email and discovered that the decision was to float. That was great with me since it meant I wouldn't have to walk around the river roasting in my waders in the 90+ degree heat we've been enjoying. Additionally, I prefer floating the river for guide trips as it allows us to access some spots that I know have big fish.

On the evening before the trip, after consulting the generation schedule, I contacted Jeff and Sandy to set up the meeting time and place. Then I hit the tying vise for a couple of hours of prep work. We would have plenty of the hot patterns for our trip.

We met the next day and were soon at the put-in ramp. Taking 20 minutes before the trip to go over the finer points of playing large trout was hot even though we found some shade, but it paid huge dividends before the day was over. After coaching first Sandy and then Jeff through the proper technique for fighting large fish on a fly rod (both were accomplished anglers using other tackle), we were ready to go. I dumped the boat and rowed out into the river before we anchored up to rig the rods. Soon both of them had the first fish of the day. These were monster brown trout in the 6-8 inch range. In other words, they were catching the future of the fishery but not the fish we had come to find.

I pulled the anchor and we were off. In the first section the fishing seemed a little slow, but Jeff was steadily catching some trout from the front of the boat. The largest early on was around 12 inches but most were smaller. Sandy, after her initial luck, had things slow down for a while.

By the time we were a good distance downstream, both anglers had settled into a routine. Cast, mend, drift...repeat. The water was just high enough from the generation to allow us to slide over a couple of gravel bars that are normally off limits. It was in one such place, as we approached a deep slot, that Jeff had a great drift interrupted by the indicator plunging down. As soon as he set the hook I knew it was serious. I instructed Sandy to get all of her line out of the water so we wouldn't have any distractions for Jeff to fight his Caney Fork trophy. Soon I was rowing up and down the river. Finally, the fish seemed like it was getting tired, and I dropped the anchor over a gravel bar and jumped out of the boat with the net. The big rainbow trout slid into the net and congratulations were passed around. Jeff had learned quickly and earned his picture with the beautiful fish.


Sandy got jealous when she saw how nice Jeff's big fish was. However, she would have to wait a little longer before her turn for a picture came around. A few hundred yards down the river, Jeff had a nearly repeat performance except that this fish was 19 inches instead of 22 inches. Either fish would be the catch of the day on most trips and Jeff had found two.


This brings up the importance of not only a good guide, but someone who knows the river. The 19 inch trout was in an area I've had my eye on. In fact, the other day during the epic bachelor party, we hooked a monster brown trout out of the same hole. If you want to catch some nice trout, a guided float trip is definitely the best way. If you are like me and enjoy learning on your own, then repeat trips down the river will, over many trips, teach you some of the tricks you will learn on a guide trip. A guided trip just shortens this learning curve.

By this time, Sandy made it clear that it was HER turn. Accordingly, I turned the boat so she had an equal shot at the fish since she was in the back. We were approaching another good spot that I like to hit and sure enough, her indicator dove and she was into a great brown trout. Again we had to row all over the river to chase this fish, but in the end it slid into the net just like the others and Sandy got her picture with a fantastic Caney Fork River brown trout.


Jeff followed up with a nice brown of his own before Sandy struck with a quality rainbow trout. Not long after these fish, it was time to start heading for the takeout ramp. Along the way, we stopped in one spot just long enough for them to get a nice double to end the day. Nothing better than a net full or brown and rainbow trout!





The Caney Fork River will continue to fish well on guided float trips. Weekends are NOT conducive to good fishing and I don't recommend float trips then. However, if you can get away during the week and have the right patterns, the right drift, and the right location, you too may catch a big Caney Fork River trout. I can't guarantee such incredible beginners' luck as Jeff and Sandy had, but we will always have fun and a day spent on the river is about the most fun you can have.

If you are interested in a guided float trip on this river, or a guided trip in the Smokies or anywhere else, don't hesitate to email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Solstice Bachelor Party

The best day I've ever had on the Caney Fork happened just this week. In fact, as close as possible, I had a repeat again yesterday, but the first was probably the most memorable because it was a trip that almost didn't happen. To put everything in perspective, let me go back a few months to last November.

My buddy Jayson gave me the honor of asking me to be a groomsman in his wedding, scheduled for this June. Over the past several months, us groomsmen discussed options for a bachelor party, but for various reasons, none of the plans ever worked out. With so many schedules to try and coordinate, the main problem came down to not having free time together. That and the fact that we wanted to do a trip outdoors. Jayson is another diehard angler as is Pat who is another groomsman. We discussed camping trips, backpacking trips, and of course all revolved around fishing. Eventually, we began to wonder if the bachelor party would even happen. We were all just too busy.

Then, the perfect storm of events occurred. What set off the chain of events was a cancelation/postponement that I had. A float trip on the Caney Fork had been on the calendar until about two weeks ago when the clients requested a postponement until the cooler months of fall. They were concerned about the extreme heat we have been experiencing. Naturally, I decided that I should spend the day on the water somewhere fishing for myself. It was then that I remembered the bachelor party. 

At this point, we were mere days away from the wedding day so time was short to get a trip together. I quickly called Jayson and Pat the other groomsman. Both were able to clear their schedules. Plans were discussed ranging from fishing in the Smokies, the Davidson in N.C., and the Clinch. Eventually we came back to the Caney Fork River and set up a time to meet.

Monday June 20 arrived with a couple of x-factors that were going to make the day go from good to epic. Any day on the water with friends is good. It should go without saying, but catching fish is always a bonus in a situation like this. However, we also had perfect flows with the generators pulsing from 8-9 a.m. The summer solstice happened to be on June 20. Oh, and we had a full moon. 

That last one was a little sketchy. I've had some fantastic fishing during a full moon, and I've also had some really horrible fishing during a full moon. Fantastic and horrible measured purely from a fish catching success perspective I should add. When I saw pictures from my buddy and guide Bryan Allison featuring his success this past weekend, I knew that this might be one of those good full moons. Nevertheless, I warned Jayson and Pat that the fishing could be epic or it could be horrible. Both were in on taking the trip regardless which turned out to be the right decision.

Jayson and Pat arrived at my house on Monday morning and we quickly transferred their gear over into my truck and boat and we were off. A short trip to the river had a small detour to get some air in one of my tires. That small detour almost became a long detour when the valve stem jammed, but eventually I got some air in the tire and the valve stem quit leaking. Back on the road, we finally made it to the river and got the boat launched. Rowing out into the river, I dropped the anchor for the usual time spent setting up all the rods.

Both of the guys were intrigued by the setup I use to fish the Caney Fork, but after just a few minutes of floating they had caught some trout and were believers in my fishing methods. The fish were keying on midges and that proved to be the situation for most of our trip. The night before I had stayed up late tying lots of extras and it was a good thing as we went through our fair share of flies.

A short distance down the river, we finally got a taste of what the day would be like. Appropriately, the groom was the first to strike on a good fish. Jayson set the hook and when the rod nearly doubled over, I quickly instructed Pat to get his line out of the water and clear the area for Jayson to fight the trout. When it rocketed to the surface, we saw that were were dealing with a large rainbow trout. Trying all of its tricks, the trout eventually yielded to Jayson's skill at fighting fish and slid into the net. Pictures were taken, high fives and hand shakes were passed around, and we got back down to the very serious business of catching trout.


Not too much further down the river, we pulled over and got out to wet our feet in the cool water. With air temperatures over 90 degrees, the usually frigid water actually felt good. Jayson and Pat were well ahead of me since I still needed to rig a rod for myself. Deciding on a hopper for my strike indicator, I dropped a nymph and midge underneath and started working downstream along a shaded bank. The overhanging branches seemed like a good spot for a terrestrial to fall in. That assumption was rewarded with a solid 16 inch brown trout, my first hopperized brown trout of the year. After releasing the fish, I noticed that Jayson was hooked up and stopped to take a few pictures.


Jumping back in the boat, I offered the hopper rod to Pat and pointed out a fish that exhibited a terrestrial rise. He cast once and the fish did everything but eat the fly. Throwing back a second time triggered that reactionary bite we were looking for, and soon he was enjoying his own nice brown trout caught on a hopper.


Continuing down the river, we caught fish here and there and broke off some true monsters. Pat seemed to have the corner on the "losing big fish" market unfortunately, but Jayson still had another moment of glory waiting.

We had stopped again to wade a second time. This was a stretch of river that I've been watching some large brown trout in and hoped to get the guys on one of those nice fish. Pat found one way up above where we stopped and lost it to a log. I fished slowly and eventually nailed a nice fish on the hopper.

Photo Courtesy of Pat Tully

Then Jayson struck again. He had been working a nice trout when it finally ate. His yelling got our attention and soon we had the net out and ran down to help. The tippet and knots held, the hook was strong enough, and soon we had more great memories captured with our cameras. Jayson's second 20"+ trout was a brown trout and featured some amazing colors.


Even though he was the groom and thus assumedly being treated extra nice for the day, I informed Jayson that two 20 inchers qualified him for the rowers bench. My moment of glory was literally just around the corner. After rowing around the corner, I turned the oars over to Jayson and jumped into the front of the boat for a few minutes.

Almost as soon as Jayson touched the oars, Pat's luck turned and he nailed a great brown trout right off some rocks along the bank. The fish had taken the midge, but the 6x tippet held and the hook was strong. After the obligatory pictures, Jayson slid the boat back out into the middle and we kept drifting.


Not too far down the river, I saw a large brown slide out of a deep hole and settle into a narrow slot between two rocks in shallow water. Hey guys, you see that big brown? When they asked where, I pointed and cast. Right under my hopper. My flies drifted through and as I pulled them out for another cast, Pat asked if he could take a shot. My cast was already on the way as I said sure. He started his cast and while his flies were literally hovering over the spot, I saw the fish turn sideways and set the hook. Sure enough, the fish was on my flies.

Notice I didn't say that it ate my flies. That is because I initially thought that I had somehow snagged the fish. A lot of side pressure failed to turn the fish at all. In such situations I usually assume that the fish is snagged. I was so convinced of this that I nearly broke the fish off on purpose. I'm not interested in killing a fish for a photo op and a snagged fish is usually going to be too exhausted by the time you land it, if it is big that is. Something in my brain doubted the snagged theory just enough to not break the fish off. On the next turn, I saw my tippet all the way to the large brown trout's mouth and realized that instead of being snagged, this was just a really heavy and strong fish.

I've lost a lot of nice trout through the years. Even a few of them recently. Big fish, not mediocre fish. Things had gotten bad enough that I almost assumed that this fish would eventually come unbuttoned. Somehow everything worked out though, and Pat Tully did a phenomenal job on the net. Thanks should also be mentioned for Jayson's great work on the oars. This fish, as were the other large trout on this day, was truly a team effort.

Photo Courtesy of Jayson Alexander

That fish proved to be the final high point of the day. Yes, we still caught more fish, but somewhere shortly after this fish the action slowed considerably. That may just be because we weren't trying very hard. Everyone on the boat was satisfied, but also tired and hungry. We rowed through the last stretch to get done at a reasonable time. A stop in Cookeville for some great Mexican food finished the day in style.

Three fish 20 inches or better in one day and at least two others broken off. I would like to think that I'm just getting that much better at this whole "guiding" thing. Maybe I am. After all, yesterday's guide trip was nearly as epic with several large rainbows and some nice browns caught. Then again, maybe it was just one of those unexplainably awesome days. The full moon, the summer solstice, good weather, a good barometer whatever that means. You know all the excuses we fly anglers give when the fishing is bad. For one day, at least, we didn't need any of them.

I anticipate the fishing on our tailwaters to continue to be fantastic through the summer. I'm getting some great reports from the Watauga and South Holston as well as the Hiwassee. The Clinch and Holston Rivers continue to fish well. Today I netted a 21.5 inch rainbow on the Holston and later caught some nice trout for myself. The Caney Fork will fish well on less crowded days. The right patterns and techniques are essential now with the water cleared up from the murky days of spring. 

If you want to get in on this great fishing, contact me about a guided wade or float trip on the Caney Fork River. You can reach me via email at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884. I'm booking trips well into July now with no availability until the second week of July. The fishing should stay good on this river through the summer and fall if we continue to experience low water.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gone Fishing As Usual

I've been really blessed to experience a lot of time on the water lately. In addition to taking people fishing, I've also had time to fish a little for myself and that trend will continue for the next couple of days. I'll be somewhere deep in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hopefully standing knee deep in a trout stream. Until I return, here is a picture of one of the prettiest rainbows I've caught this year, a nice holdover on the Caney Fork River.


Much more to come on my recent adventures in the very near future. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Slow Fishing but Quality Fish

The Caney Fork River has been going through its late summer and early full funk lately but is showing signs of breaking out as we get closer to November. Several floats over the last couple of weeks have produced lower than normal numbers of fish but some shots at quality trout. The numbers should improve as we head into November.

Today we started early and landed the best fish of the day within sight of the ramp. It was a solid 16 inch rainbow. Later in the float, a larger rainbow broke off the 6x tippet that is required on these fish while a very nice brown came unbuttoned right at the boat. Some browns are starting to move around and this prespawn time is a great opportunity to sight fish to some large fish. Please leave the fish on redds alone though. Look just downstream from the redds for some great fish eating everything getting stirred up by the spawners.

My first trip back from Yellowstone on the Caney produced the best fish of the fall so far, a solid 19" rainbow. The fish was caught by Gary Dowd who did everything perfectly to land this solid trout. Hooking them is only half of the battle at best, and these large fish will normally pull out all the tricks once hooked.

Caney Fork trophy rainbow trout


Conditions will continue to improve as we go into November. If things stay relatively dry, expect the river to have very good float conditions by the first week or two in November hopefully.

If you are interested in a guided fly fishing trip on the Caney Fork River or in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please contact me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884. Thanks!

-David Knapp

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

First Time Streamer Fishing

Fly fishing for trout with streamers is definitely an intermediate technique at minimum and perhaps even could be considered as advanced. One of the joys of owning a drift boat is being able to introduce people to good streamer technique. When everything comes together, and they catch that first trout on a streamer, the smiles rival catching that first trout ever. Last week I had an open day and called my buddy Tyler to see if he wanted to fish. Rarely do I have to ask him twice, and we made plans on when and where to meet.

The next day, we dumped the boat and immediately anchored up for a snack. I had a full morning of errands behind me and needed some fuel to row down under the 5,000 plus CFS that were coming through the sluice gate and generator. This proved to be a good opportunity to give Tyler the verbal crash course on what we were trying to accomplish.

Before long, I pulled the anchor and we were under way. Tyler was hitting the banks and current seams like a pro and before long the follows and flashes were coming. In fact, I soon saw perhaps the largest trout I've ever seen on the Caney flash on his streamer. I glanced up and his eyes were as big as saucers, and I was back rowing like mad to try and give another shot. On this day, it was not meant to be. The big fish never showed itself again, but I guarantee that I will be back to look for that big slab of buttery brown.

Once we switched for a short distance so I could throw a few casts myself. Tyler is slowly learning to do a good job at rowing. Eventually I'll have him trained in to row me down there river the whole way.  On this day, the student would out-fish the teacher. Before long, I switched back to the oars and this time I could tell that Tyler was dialed in. The streamer was landing within a foot of the bank and he was swimming the fly like a pro.

We were entering another big fish zone where I had recently seen a large brown. Directing Tyler to cast to specific spots soon brought results. A nice fish slammed the streamer and Tyler was happy and nervous all at once. Anyone who has had a nice fish on the line knows the stress that comes at such times. Handling it like a pro, he soon had the fish in the net and posed for a couple of pictures. Like other recent quality fish, this one ate a PB&J streamer. Congrats Tyler!

Caney Fork River brown trout

Caney Fork River brown trout head shot

After watching the fish swim off strongly, we continued downstream. I fished a bit more, but other than some small stockers chasing and one nice fish that missed the hook, I could tell it just wasn't my day. Tyler went back to the front casting brace and before long had his second brown on a streamer. Not bad for his first time ever streamer fishing.

Another Caney Fork River brown trout on a streamer

Soon the ramp slid into view and before we knew it the boat was loaded. The air conditioning felt great after the hot sun on the river. Funny how catching nice fish made us forget the heat until we got to the end of the float.


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Low Water

Fly fishing the Caney Fork River
Wading a likely looking run on the Caney Fork River.


Floating on low water is usually the preferred method for fly fishing the Caney Fork River. In addition to being much safer, the low water concentrates the fish and allows anglers opportunities to sight fish and also normally to catch good numbers. Last week, day two with Nathan and Frank was scheduled to be a low water float. We would have a hard time following up the big fish excitement of the previous day but hoped to find a few more trout. Then, in the afternoon, they had to take off, but I was going to do another section on high water again to see if the streamer bite was still on.

We met early and were soon at the river dumping the drift boat and getting the shuttle taken care of. With everything ready to go, we soon pushed off and were floating downstream. Early on, we experimented with some patterns and tried a few different spots. A couple of fish hit but came unbuttoned quickly and we moved on to look for more willing candidates.

Soon we were drifting over a favorite shoal that normally has a good number of trout. Sure enough, there were fish taking midges up and down the shallow gravel bar. I pulled the boat over and both Nathan and Frank jumped out to work the water more carefully. Caney Fork River fly fishing often entails sight fishing to steadily feeding trout and this day was no different.

I grabbed my camera to record the fun.

Fly fishing the Caney Fork River
Frank working a good stretch right before hooking up with a feisty brown trout.

Fly Fishing the Caney Fork River
Nathan prepares to land a healthy rainbow trout caught on a midge pattern.

Frank had been wanting to find a fish willing to eat a dry fly. A friend of his had given him a handful of flies and he wanted to catch a fish on them and get a picture. That mission was soon accomplished.

Caney Fork brown trout on a dry fly
Caney Fork brown trout caught on a dry fly.

Fly fishing the Caney Fork brown trout
A happy angler with a Caney Fork brown trout.

After the excitement, we were back in the boat and floating again. Some more fish were missed and then the action slowed. It became apparent we were following another boat so we passed them and rowed well downstream to not encroach on their water. Our time was running low but there were still a couple of big moments during the float.

Nathan was the first to score. I had pointed to a spot and requested that the anglers drop their flies in a small section of moving water. Nathan used pinpoint accuracy to get the flies drifting exactly where they needed to be, threw a nice upstream mend, and then set the hook as the indicator dove under. Soon the healthy holdover rainbow trout was in the net and we took a couple of quick photographs.

Caney Fork rainbow trout
Caney Fork rainbow trout.

Downstream a bit further, we had our last big moment for the day and it was really the highpoint of the whole float. We were drifting down on another good spot, and I directed the anglers to place their flies right on the current seam. Almost immediately both indicators went down and the guys got good hooksets. Soon the net was filled with trout and we had two happy anglers on board the boat!

Two happy anglers with a Caney Fork brown trout and a rainbow trout
One rainbow trout, one brown trout, and two happy anglers!

Soon we arrived at the takeout and quickly hauled the boat out before the generation caught up with us. A good morning fly fishing the Caney Fork had been had by all. The guys had a long drive back to Georgia, and I needed a break to eat lunch and rest before the afternoon streamer float. More on that to come soon!

If I can help you with a guided fly fishing float trip on the Caney Fork River or a walk/wade trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or on the Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass streams, please call or text me at (931) 261-1884 or email me at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Where We Are Fishing

Where have I been fishing? Not the lower elevation streams that are already excessively low for this time of year and running much too warm for fishing to be ethically acceptable. That much I can say. Of course, some trips have been on the Caney Fork River which fishes very well during dry years. However, up in the Smokies, the key is to head high to the high gradient mid and upper elevation waters that tumble down from the highest portions of the Park. Up high, water temperatures are still perfect for trout so you can fish with a clear conscience.

The rhododendron is starting to bloom and will work its way farther and farther up the hill as we move through the next few weeks. I've heard that the Flame Azaleas are peaking right now up on the ridges and balds. With a little luck I may hike up there this week to see the sight for myself before it is too late. The trout in the streams are happy and willing, but we could definitely do with a little more water.

Thankfully, the long range forecast is looking excellent. By late next week, a cooler and hopefully wetter weather pattern will kick in. In fact, if things get really good we'll even be back in the lower and mid elevations of the Park again. I can only hope.


If you are interested in a guided float trip on the Caney Fork River or in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please contact me through Trout Zone Anglers, via email at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com, or call/text (931) 261-1884. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Beginning a Drought?

Temperatures are up and stream flows are down around middle and eastern Tennessee. Across the Smokies, we are experiencing flows normally reserved for August and September. Same thing goes for the Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass streams which, by the way, are fishing well even with the low water.


Are we on the verge of a drought? Only time will tell. The one bright spot under these conditions are the great tailwater fisheries across the state. The Caney Fork has been fishing well most of the time. During the slower periods, a few quick fly changes have kept us catching fish. Sometimes different fish are eating from different menus.

Last Thursday I fished the Caney to explore a couple of spots. Lots of fish were obviously in the river, but they were tougher to catch than the previous week. After a few fly changes, the hot fly was located, and then my rod was bent for a couple of hours. During the excitement, I did pause long enough to take a couple of stomach samples. You have to be extremely careful if you are going to do this and avoid sampling any fish less than 12 inches. However, the results were intriguing.

Just to confirm, I tied on one of the usual patterns we fish out of the boat and then dropped a much more exact imitation of the obvious menu item that showed up in both samples. The pattern that killed them the previous week was getting one hit for every 10 fish I caught on the hatch matching fly. Big surprise there I'm sure, but the point is that if you aren't catching fish, keep on changing patterns or put your face down to the surface and look for bugs.

Later in the day, further down the river, I found out again that the fish didn't want the "usual" pattern so I started changing. Surprisingly they didn't want the second one either. Seeing some Sulfurs hatching got me excited and I tried dry and nymph versions of those. Nada. Finally, after seeing a few caddis flutter by, I tied on a favorite caddis pupa pattern and was immediately back into fish including this beautiful brown trout. Notice the fleece jacket sleeve on my arm. The high temperature here at home never got out of the low 50s last Thursday! I briefly thought I had died and gone to Heaven the Rocky Mountain high country.


With the low clear water, long casts and leaders were mandatory if I wanted to actually catch fish. If you are planning on floating with me, I would suggest considering brushing up on your casting before you come out for the day. It will help you enjoy your trip a lot more if you haven't been consistently casting 40-50 feet. When I fish in the mountains, I rarely cast more than 20 feet so I can often go long stretches without a longer cast. Heading out to my favorite casting pond gets me back in the zone for a great day of fishing no matter where I plan to fish.

Over in the Smokies, we are seeing more and more of an emphasis on small and medium sized streams. Just a little bit of rain will change that, however. This week we have a good chance of rain just about every day so hopefully the streams will rise a bit and fishing will return to normal. If not, keep chasing those Smoky Mountain jewels on the steeper mid and high elevation streams.


Despite the low water, conditions remain good for both fish and fishermen as long as you come prepared with low water stealth mode enabled. Last Wednesday, Logan and Rick were up to enjoy some time in the mountains and wanted to enjoy a new to them stream in Cades Cove. After telling them that the conditions were a bit less than optimal, they still wanted to try Abrams Creek so we decided on a late day trip (1/2 day trip) and hope for an evening hatch.

The fishing ended up being very good despite very low water conditions. Logan worked hard to learn some high stick nymphing techniques without a strike indicator and was soon catching hungry rainbow trout. Rick caught on quickly to our Smoky Mountain fishing techniques despite being more of a tailwater guy. By the end of the evening, both guys had caught numerous rainbows up to 9 or 10 inches on both dry flies and nymphs. We witnessed a good variety of bugs but the hatch was never as concentrated as I was hoping for. That didn't prevent the fish from feeding though! Here is Logan with a nice rainbow trout.


The Mountain Laurel is in bloom in the Smokies right now. That made for some incredible photo opportunities along the stream.


The highlight of the evening was when a deer waded out across the slick ledges and posed midstream for us.


With the rain in the forecast, I expect good things for the fishing in the mountains. Hopefully we won't receive too much that we get the tailwaters messed up. The Caney is in great shape for drifting right now so don't delay if you want to get a trip in. I'm avoiding the river on the weekends and hitting it when the crowds moderate slightly during the week. The next two weeks are booked solid but I do have some opening starting after that.

If I can help you with a guided fly fishing trip in the Smokies or on the Caney Fork River, please contact me via email at TroutZoneAnglers@gmail.com or call/text (931) 261-1884.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Fishing With Dad

Last week, I had a great opportunity to fish with my dad, but it was a chance that almost didn't happen. On Tuesday, I decided that I wanted to fish on Wednesday and based on how well the Monday guide trip went, I knew I had to get out on the Caney Fork. After a couple of texts to friends to see if any of them were free or wanted to ditch work, I figured I could check with my dad. At this point, it is important to emphasize that he really doesn't fish. Yes, he does enjoy going along with me from time to time, but getting him to actually go fishing is another thing. When he agreed to go along, I was pleasantly surprised to say the least and even more so when he agreed to fish on the trip!

After a late night run to Walmart for a fishing license, we were ready for the next morning. A breakfast of waffles had me fueled up for a few hours of rowing, and when we threw some sandwiches and sides into the cooler along with some water, we were ready to go. Before long, we were dumping the boat and ready to float.

I gave my dad the quick lecture on how to cast and then got him fishing. As is normal with most beginner fly fishermen, it took some time to figure out the whole "hook set" thing. I was using the boat to help achieve long drifts, subtly dipping an oar here or there to keep everything moving steadily and without drag. Several times, the indicator shot under and one fish even found itself briefly hooked, but still a fish in the net eluded us.

Finally, I changed up patterns, adjusted the indicator, and not too long after we saw the indicator go down yet again. This time, dad came tight on a feisty rainbow trout that found its way into the net. Posing for a quick picture took a few seconds, and I soon had proof that my dad went fishing. The fish was freed to be caught again another day, and we continued drifting.


One fish down helped a lot. Once that pressure is removed, it allows everyone to relax and most people fish better without too much pressure. Dad was soon in a groove, catching fish and remembering to carefully count, announcing each one before it even hit the net. I reminded him that he couldn't count fish until they were landed, but of course he told me that he was going to land them all. Can't argue with that!

Eventually, we got to a shady spot to eat our sandwiches and potato salad. After a delicious lunch, I hopped out of the rower's seat and waded up to the top of a shoal that always holds fish. Working the Sage Accel 904-4, I made a long cast to the middle of the river. Soon the indicator dipped and when the fish flashed I briefly panicked. Thankfully, the next flash convinced me it was not quite as large but still a beautiful holdover. My dad did a fantastic job on the net as I fought the fish down to where the boat waited and then again with the camera. What a rainbow trout!


I jumped back behind the oars and my dad quickly resumed catching fish. One promising spot was good enough to anchor on for a few minutes so we both fished. I climbed into the back of the boat and dad was in front. A few casts later, we landed our first double!


After the double, I started rowing again since the water would start coming up before too long. I didn't want to get caught with rising water at the boat ramp. Almost immediately, my dad hooked another trout. The pink stripe was so gorgeous and the fins so healthy that I took a quick shot before I let it go and then one of dad fishing out of the front of the boat.



One final spot called for us to anchor up so stopped the boat and we both fished again. My last fish of the day was a gorgeous 14 inch brown trout that fought like a much larger fish.


At this point, my dad was quickly closing in on around 20 trout for the day. Somewhere around 16 or 17 we both lost track but when he caught a few more we decided it must be 20 and probably more. I was impressed with how quickly he caught on and started catching a lot of fish. He was probably getting tired of my "coaching" (hey, it is hard to quit guiding), and I could tell from his casting that he was getting tired. Most people who are not used to fly fishing get tired after a long day in the hot sun catching lots of fish. He hung in until right at the end but thankfully the ramp was just ahead. We pulled the boat out just as the water started to rise and were soon enjoying the air conditioned car on the ride home.

Dad got a year long license so I'm sure I'll convince him to get out on the water with me again. You don't want to waste all that money after all!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Floating the Caney Fork River Before the Cold

Last week, with the cold weather on the way, I wanted to get one more day of fishing in. After checking around, I discovered that my buddy Tyler was free and we agreed on a float of the Caney Fork River. With forecast temperatures supposed to rise into the low 50s, we were excited about one last nice day on the water before the arctic air plunged into the region.

Timing our arrival to coincide with falling water, we launched shortly after the last generator was turned off. Fish were rising all across the dam pool when the wind wasn't blowing but unfortunately there was more wind than not.

We started drifting with Tyler in the front casting brace while I enjoyed some time at the oars. It wasn't until we passed the second ramp that Tyler got in the zone with his casting and mending. The water was slow to fall out, probably due to the fact that they had been running two generators for several hours. That is a lot of water to drain down the river to the Cumberland.

About the time that I felt water levels were improving, Tyler made a nice cast and mend that set up a long drift. Right at the very end of the drift his indicator dove and he set the hook. A nice big golden flash got both of us excited but the fight was over as fast as it started when the fish threw the hook. Shortly after, Tyler made a long cast to the bank and after a short drift, the indicator dove again. This time everything worked out and we had our first little brown trout of the day in the boat.


I continued rowing and it was not too long before Tyler caught some more including a nice rainbow trout.



This fish was big enough that I decided to do a quick throat sample. While I do not recommend doing this with every fish, it is a good way to find out what the fish are eating. Thankfully this one seemed to handle it pretty well. Here is what was on the menu that day.


We continued down the river with Tyler catching a trout here and there but none of any significant size. Eventually, when we were a good third of the way into the float, I decided to let Tyler row. He willingly took a turn at the oars, proving to be a quick learner as it was only his second time rowing.

I got into some fish in an unlikely spot that I will remember for future reference, as well as some spots that I usually expect to find fish. Late in the float, I finally hooked the big fish of the day. This rainbow really wasn't a large fish, but I wish you could have seen its girth in person. The pictures do not do it justice. I guarantee it weighed at least double of what other fish of equal length weighed. Either this is a female full of eggs, or it has been eating a bunch of shad lately. I'm guessing the first one is correct based on where I caught this fish, but of course the shad hypothesis is a bit more interesting.


Two Photographs above by Tyler Debord

With forecast overnight lows expected to drop below zero in the upcoming nights, the shad kill likely is on the way. I'm already planning another trip to the river, and hopefully I'll be throwing streamers again next time. Until then, I think I'll try to stay warm.

If you are in the Huntsville area, I will be speaking to the Tennessee Valley Fly Fishers this upcoming Thursday evening about fly fishing in the Smokies. I'm looking forward to meeting a bunch of new friends! Come out to learn more about the excellent fly fishing we have here in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.